The Da’an district in Taipei was once an upscale residential area of the posh and well-heeled. Today, it is bustling with chic boutiques, hip cafés, restaurants and award-winning bars dotted along small alleyways. It’s not hard to see why Kimpton chose this city as their first foray into Asia—it’s a city that straddles the line between the new and old, opulence and grittiness, frenetic energy and stately momentum. The design of the hotel—by the renowned Neri&Hu—attempts to reflect this contrasting spirit.
Admittedly, there isn’t much of a wow factor when you walk into the hotel, but that is not to say the hotel is not impressive. The atmosphere is rather cosy and welcoming, as if you’re entering someone’s house, someone with very good taste in fact.
The lobby, or as the hotel calls it the “living room”, is a work of art. The designers included a carved mass in the lobby’s setup to let natural light in for a play with light and shadow. The sculpted high/low ceiling plays up the contrast by offering different spatial experiences—a cocooned space for the lounge area and the double height atrium at the entrance. Pay close attention and you’ll spot the design firm’s signature brass fixtures, furniture and lightings like the Bai Chandelier and Yanzi Light.
For a bit of local flair, white tiles—a common element found in Taiwanese architecture—are plastered across the lobby and throughout the hotel. Plus, the intricate metalwork housed around millworks take inspiration from the layers of craftsmanship found in window and façade details in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Some of the highlighted services in the “living room” is the Morning Kick-Start where guests can grab a simple breakfast (including a local soya drink) to go. Come during the social evening hour and you’ll find hotel guests mingling with a glass of wine or two. The mood is always casual, not unlike the vibes at a friend’s house party.
The convivial mood is extended to the hotel’s only restaurant, The Tavernist, helmed by James Sharman, a disciple of Noma’s René Redzepi. Here you’ll find comforting, contemporary cuisine in a setting that does not feel too try-hard. Staying true to the restaurant’s modern yet local ethos, one of the highlighted dishes is the fried chicken with kombu, a nod to Taiwanese popcorn chicken. It’s served in a brown paper bag, which you need to tear open before using a bamboo stick to skewer the deep-fried, skin-on, de-boned dark meat. But instead of an ice-cold beer, you pair it with one of The Tavernist’s curated cocktails.
Upstairs, the guestrooms reiterate the idea of an interior sanctuary which invokes a sense of calmness and respite from the busy streets outside. Wooden insertions double as thresholds, creating in-between spaces that offer momentary retreats, according to the designers. The punctured openings and windows in light coloured wood offer both views of internal spaces as well as of the outside.
Our favourite is the bathroom, which is enclosed entirely in white tiles and looks as clinical as it is modern. The green walls by the bed, by contrast, conjure a smooth yet sobering mood. And from Bolon’s woven vinyl flooring and soft-coloured fabrics to light wooden furniture and brass and marble fixtures, everything in the room comes together very organically. The calmness of this haven is not lost on us when we sit by the window looking out onto the buzzy streets of Taiwan’s capital city.